Billie Joe Armstrong & Norah Jones “Foreverly” Review

Courtesy of Reprise Records
Courtesy of Reprise Records

Cover albums are always a tricky thing. It’s difficult for musicians to encapsulate the original artist while incorporating their own twists and originality. This is where things get complicated on “Foreverly,” as Billie Joe Armstrong and Norah Jones leave their respective genres of music to cover The Everly Brothers’ 1958 album, “Songs Our Daddy Taught Us” — which is also a cover album of classic country songs.

Even though they’re a rather odd duo, if any two people could potentially breathe new life into classics such as “Roving Gambler” and “Kentucky,” it’s Armstrong and Jones. Coming from different musical backgrounds, the punk-rock legend (Armstrong) and the pop songstress (Jones) had the opportunity to put a fresh new spin on The Everly Brothers’ ode to traditional country songs. But instead, the duo present nothing new from the 1958 classic.

Although the songs are presented in a different order, the way Armstrong and Jones approach “Foreverly” almost mirrors The Everly Brothers’ approach. On songs like “Roving Gambler” and “Who’s Gonna Shoe Your Pretty Little Feet,” Armstrong and Jones sound like exact copies of The Everly Brothers’ version. If you played the tracks simultaneously, you’d find the main difference between the two albums is that “Songs Our Daddy Taught Us” utilizes only an acoustic guitar, while “Foreverly” adds in violin, piano, bass, banjo and drums.

What Armstrong and Jones do great on “Foreverly” is perfectly embody The Everly Brothers.  As the two croon, “Please Mr. Conductor / Don’t put me off of this train” on “Lightning Express,” Armstrong’s smooth vocals and Jones’ sweet and beautiful sounds mesh together beautifully over catchy guitar riffs and heartwarming violin. Armstrong exits his comfort zone as the Green Day frontman leaves his punk vocals behind in order to capture The Everly Brothers’ melodious approach. If you didn’t know that Armstrong was on the album, you would not have been able to tell that it is in fact him, as he embraces the style of The Everly Brothers so perfectly. This change is apparent on “Oh So Many Years” as the two harmonize so flawlessly that even The Everly Brothers would be proud.

Things get interesting once Armstrong and Jones decide to tackle songs on their own. During most of “Barbara Allen,” Armstrong sings alone in a gritty tone, making it a bit awkward to listen to at times — imagine Green Day performing a country song. Jones’ presence makes the song sonically better and complete, which makes listeners think how different the album would be without her. On one of the standout tracks on the album, “I’m Here To Get My Baby Out of Jail,” Jones completely steals the show from Armstrong as she sings, “I’m not in your town to stay / and I’ll soon be on my way / I’m just here to get my baby out of jail.” Jones’ subtle but controlling vocals, accompanied by soft banjo melodies, bring listeners in closer to the song’s story.

“Foreverly” is not a new take on The Everly Brothers’ 1958 classic. Instead, it is Billie Joe Armstrong’s and Norah Jones’ ode to The Everly Brothers’ take on classic country songs — nothing more, and nothing less. Armstrong and Jones step out of their respective genres to embody The Everly Brothers, and they succeed. For those who have never heard of The Everly Brothers or their album “Songs Our Daddy Taught Us,” “Foreverly” is worth a listen or two. For those who have already heard the album, you’re not missing much.

Rating: 3 stars

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